Those of you who want MLS to act more like the rest of world soccer should rejoice. The league is just as capable as anywhere else of building up a storm of transfer rumors.
On Tuesdya, those rumors swirled around the Philadelphia Union. And a few of them led to a big trade.
When Jeff Parke came to PPL Park last winter, the signing was hailed as the homecoming of a local hero. But his tenure here has ended after just one season. The Union and D.C. United agreed to a deal that sent Parke across the Mason-Dixon line.
Philadelphia got 23-year-old central defender Ethan White and the top spot in the allocation order for Americans and other former MLS players joining the league from abroad. D.C. got the 31-year-old Parke and the Union's spot in the allocation order, which was No. 6.
The allocation order is set at the end of each season based on reverse order of finish. United, as the league's worst team in 2013, had the No. 1 ranking.
In a statement issued by the Union, Parke thanked the fans in his hometown for their support. It's noteworthy that the move was for more than just soccer reasons:
I want to express how incredible it was for me to represent a such great team, city and group of supporters. For reasons that I can only describe as a personal matter, I am leaving my home town and this great club. This has been an extremely difficult decision for me, but I want to thank the Union fans, coaches, players and staff for helping make last year awesome while playing for my hometown club.
My heart and home are in Philly and you have all been fantastic to me from day one. I will miss you and want you to know how grateful I will always be to everyone who made my experience here such a memorable one.
White offered this statement on Twitter as word of the trade got out:
I'd like to thank all the coaches, staff, teammates and especially the fans at @dcunited for everything over the past 3 seasons. This— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) January 14, 2014
Organization had helped me grow as both a player and a man. I will miss you all and thank you for the support you guys have shown me through— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) January 14, 2014
You guys have shown me through it all. It is time for me to move on and I'm glad @PhilaUnion has shown interest and given me the opportunity— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) January 14, 2014
Great place to land. Let's make some great memories! #DOOP— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) January 14, 2014
So what will the Union do with that allocation spot? It sounds likely that it could be used to sign Maurice Edu, a former U.S. national team stalwart who can play defensive midfielder or centerback. Goal.com's Ives Galarcep reported that the Union are “pushing hard” to sign the University of Maryland product.
Edu has 45 caps, and was part of the 2010 World Cup squad. He famously scored a goal against Slovenia that was ruled offside for no apparent reason.
After playing college soccer at Maryland, Edu turned pro in 2007 and joined Toronto FC. He moved to Scottish powerhouse Rangers in 2008 for a $5 million transfer fee.
When Rangers went bankrupt in 2012, he crossed the border to join English Premier League club Stoke City. But Edu failed to crack Stoke's lineup. He was loaned to Turkish club Bursaspor for the second half of the 2012-13 season, then returned to England.
It's quite possible that if Edu does come back to MLS instead of staying in Europe, he'll be a Designated Player. That would exempt him from the allocation process, and it would raise questions about who's coming into the league next.
To quote from a statement issued by MLS executive vice president of player relations and competition Todd Durbin when Clint Dempsey moved to Seattle:
For new players signed by an MLS club as a Designated Player, the allocation process does not apply.
But Goff reported that the rules may have been changed yet again:
IF Edu returns, he WOULD go thru allocation but as DP. Why? MLS hq not involved in transfer. Thus, not special case like CD & MB. It's MLS.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 14, 2014
Goff later elaborated that Edu would be moving on a free transfer, and DPs that don't command transfer fees go through the allocation process.
Nice and easy, right?
No. Not so easy at all. This popped up from ESPN's Jeff Carlisle on Thursday evening:
If (and it's now a big if) the Edu deal happens. I'd bet the Uniun will take a centerback with the No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick. Yes, Edu can play that position, but he's a much better defensive midfielder. And with Parke gone, the Union really need true defensive depth.
At least one of a standout pair of California products, Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean, will be available when the Union come on the clock. Birnbaum is rated as the most MLS-ready player in the draft. Dean is a year younger, but is a Generation Adidas player, which means his salary won't count against the cap.
In addition to the Edu rumors, reports from the Philly Soccer Page have the Union pursuing two other players abroad, French midfielder Vincent Nogueira and Argentine midfielder Cristian Maidana. One or both of them could be Designated Players.
If all three players come here as DPs, it would be a dramatic change for a team that has never had more than one DP on its roster at a time.